As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, June 22, 2009

When CBO Scores Vanish

When a partial Congressional Budget Office score revealed that health care would be more expensive than expected and not cover as many Americans, mainly because it was scoring something, you know, PARTIAL, the press had a field day, egged on by Republicans. Hell, they're still talking about it.

"Meet the Press" has really got to step up its game on the health-care debate. Last week, host David Gregory tweeted "Compelling fact today: dem-wh health care plan would only cover 16 of the 50 mill uninsured. That makes it a harder sell. Info from cbo." Problem was, his fact wasn't much of a fact. CBO didn't score a "Dem-White House" plan. It scored a partial version of the Senate HELP Committee's plan. The White House wasn't involved. And nor, for that matter, would that plan have only covered 16 million. The version of the bill examined by CBO was missing the employer mandate and the specifics on the individual mandate. It was missing, in other words, the parts of the bill that would cover people. Gregory was right to say that the CBO score was a setback. But not for the reasons he suggested.

By contrast, over the weekend, that same CBO scored the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill to determine the annual cost per household of a cap and trade system and a renewable energy standard.

On that basis, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion—or about $175 per household. That figure includes the cost of restructuring the production and use of energy and of payments made to foreign entities under the program, but it does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in GHG emissions and the associated slowing of climate change. CBO could not determine the incidence of certain pieces (including both costs and benefits) that represent, on net, about 8 percent of the total. For the remaining portion of the net cost, households in the lowest income quintile would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020, while households in the highest income quintile would see a net cost of $245.

In other words, in another partial score, since it doesn't take into account the benefit of mitigating climate change, low income households would actually benefit slightly from the impacts of the bill, while high-income households would see a fairly nominal cost. Republicans have argued for months that doing anything on greenhouse gas emissions would cost anywhere from $1,600 to $3,100 a family.

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that this score will have absolutely no impact on the debate over whether or not we should enact climate and energy legislation. Those who want to cover for polluting industries will still lie that the impact on "working families" will be too costly, and the press will "cover the controversy." In other words, the CBO only matters when it matters.

Meanwhile, Democrats have, apparently, a global warming denier in charge of the House Agriculture Committee, and he's doing whatever he can to stop the bill.

House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) on Friday said climate change bill negotiators are heading back to the drawing board after discussions between Democrats “blew up last night.”

A meeting between chairmen drafting the climate bill and Democrats on the Agriculture Committee “by and large blew up last night” over the issue of offsets, Peterson said.

Specifically, he said, Agriculture Democrats rejected a concept pitched by bill drafters that would set money aside for a new greenhouse gas conservation program tied together with some offsets [...]

“We’re back to how do we deal — we want USDA to run our offset program; they want EPA to run it,” Peterson said. “Not that we’re necessarily against the EPA; they just speak a different language. They don’t have the infrastructure out there to deal with us.”

Added Peterson, “I’m tired of this running around in circles.”

Funny, I was about to say the same thing.

I'm beginning to think that humans have a better chance of adapting with gills than adapting legislatively with meaningful climate change legislation. After all, lawmakers have to protect those poor families from getting that $40 in ten years.

Labels: , , , , ,